TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Former Albanian President Bujar Nishani, who was often criticized for his center-right political affiliation from the leftist coalition, died following a serious health problem, the country’s presidential office said Saturday. He was 55.
President Ilir Meta wrote on Facebook that he had learned “with sadness and deep regret that President Bujar Nishani passed away.”
“President Nishani will always be remembered as a personality with rare values of a leader with integrity and vision. His contribution for Albania and democracy will always be remembered respectfully,” wrote Meta.
No further details were released but a month ago Nishani went to Germany to seek treatment for a serious liver illness.
Nishani served as president from 2012 until 2017. At 45, he was elected as the youngest and sixth president in post-communist Albania, supported only by lawmakers from the center-right Democratic party of then-Prime Minister Sali Berisha. Opposition lawmakers boycotted the vote, demanding a consensual candidate.
Albania’s presidents are elected in the 140-seat Parliament.
Before that, Nishani served as the country’s interior and justice ministers.
Born in the port city of Durres, 20 miles west of capital of Tirana, Nishani graduated from the military academy and later the law faculty. He first lectured at the military academy and then worked in senior jobs in Albania’s Defense Ministry. His political career started a few years before he was elected as a lawmaker in 2005.
Nishani, who always kept a low profile, was often criticized by the leftist Socialist Party of being too close to the Democrats.
“European Albania is the greatest expectation of our citizens because a European Albania will be the country of guaranteed freedom, a European Albania will be the country where the rights are protected from law and order, the country where the free market strengthens businessmen every day,” said Nishani in his inauguration speech as president.
Still, there was little change in the country’s justice system during his term, even though that was always considered the country’s Achilles’ heel in its path toward joining the European Union.
Due to the constant political bickering between Berisha’s Democratic Party and Edi Rama’s Socialist Party, Nishani rarely attempted to reach a compromise between the two opposing political camps. His nominations of Albania’s top army generals, judges and prosecutors were controversial and always in line with what Berisha wanted.
Nishani was physically not fully fit after surgery in 2008 for a cerebral cavernoma, a vascular abnormality of the central nervous system, according to his physician Dr. Mentor Petrela. The illness left Nishani’s left foot and arm partially non-functional.
Nishani is survived by his spouse, a son and a daughter. There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements.